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Slow Down and Quiet Your Mind: Wabi-Sabi Welcome

by Julie Pointer Adams
Wabi-Sabi Welcome

Images & Text Excerpted from Wabi-Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017

The Japanese notion of wabi-sabi is a celebration of “the perfectly imperfect.” In her new book, Wabi-Sabi Welcome, an expert offers tips on entertaining at home while finding harmony and serenity in what is “uncomplicated, unassuming, mysterious and fleeting.”

A wabi-sabi perspective requires a slower, quieter approach to life than we may be used to, similar to the sensation that Japanese Zen gardens are meant to inspire. Zen gardens are small, hushed, subtle spaces with few visual distractions—unlike people in much of the modern world, the Japanese are not afraid of deep silence.

The purpose of these gardens is to encourage meditation, and the way we approach them can be a metaphor for how we look at everything else. If we’re still, focused and content, we see an abundance of beauty. But if we’re impatient, rushed or bored in this tranquil space, we’ll miss the whole point.

The same might be said for entertaining. Slowing down is a way to make time and space to enjoy rare moments of peace and togetherness, and it’s difficult to be thoughtful while moving at a frenetic pace. When I hurry through meals, rush through conversations, check my phone again and again or squander moments of rest and relaxation, the whole day feels like one diversion after another. Being constantly preoccupied makes my mind so noisy that I no longer hear or see what’s going on around me.

Slowing down means readjusting our expectations of what we can fit into a day. Hospitality doesn’t abide by a schedule, and while we may feel compelled to plan each hour, doing this makes us miss opportunities to really connect with those around us. So how do we break the habit? Start making just one or two commitments on Saturdays instead of five or six. Let Sunday be a day of rest, or a “free-range” day to go wherever you want with whomever you want, without the confines of an agenda or a long to-do list. Sit on the porch reading with a friend for hours or let a lazy brunch extend into the afternoon. Invite friends or family over on a whim for dinner or a piece of pie.

My favorite way to slow down usually involves abandoning my to-do lists and instead spending a long, laid-back Saturday at the beach (or the park, river or lake) with a handful of friends, and then heading home with the crew for a mellow cookout or a potluck.

Balancing our chaotic calendars with quiet reprieves is ultimately what will help us simplify our homes, minds and lives.

Stone Fruit with Honey Vanilla Goat Cheese

These treats are perfect for simple evening dinners and potlucks in the backyard. Any stone fruit (like peaches, nectarines, plums or even cherries) will do, but apricots are an especially good size for easy snacking. The version pictured was made with yellow peaches. I used to live close to a creamery that made honey-vanilla goat cheese, but now I make my own; it’s ridiculously delicious.

Halve or quarter the fruit and remove the pits.

Whip together softened plain goat cheese, a bit of local honey and a few drops of good-quality vanilla extract, and put a dollop of this into each piece of hollowed-out fruit. If you don’t like goat cheese, any cheese with a similar texture will do.

Once the fruit is plated, I like to drizzle maple syrup or (more!) honey over it and sprinkle a handful of crushed nuts like walnuts, pecans or whatever I have in the cupboard on top. The sticky syrup or honey helps the crushed nuts stay on top. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve, then enjoy!

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